2nd Story’s Ladies Man Reaches New Levels of Hilarity
Catch this flawless comedy before it closes!by Marilyn A. Busch, Motif
I have a confession to make, mes amies. I am a sucker for a good bedroom comedy. Yes, a deconstructed think-piece is good now and then and Lord knows, I can get behind a good musical, but no matter how tough times are, all you have to do to is mention the words — “door slamming farce” and I am THERE front and center, armed with a glass of wine and a craving for comedy.
At the heart of any great farce lies a terrible tragedy just waiting to happen.
In the case of The Ladies Man, Charles Morey’s fast and loose adaptation of Feydeau’s bedroom comedy that tragedy is about to befall one Doctor Hercule Molineaux. Masterfully played by Ed Shea, the good Doctor is a bespectacled, balding and bearded ball of nerves who has recently taken a quite lovely young bride, Yvonne (played with delightful decorum by Jennifer Michaels.)
The problem is that their bedroom conversations tickle Molineaux’s funny bone to such a great extent that his libido shrinks to wet noodle status and he cannot perform. Literally every man’s nightmare, oui?
Alas, to avoid another night of embarrassment, he tells her that she snores — a “tiny-little-hardly-even-noticeable” lie – and requests they sleep in separate bedrooms. Sounds simple enough, right? Well given that this is a French farce, certain plot twists come with the territory – after an evening with the boys at Moulin Rouge, the Doctor locks himself out of the house. The fact that there is a good reason he comes sneaking in the window still dressed in last night’s clothes is unimportant. What comes out of his mouth next is instead another little lie — that he spent the night with Mssr. Bassinet, a patient at death’s door. Cue doorbell and enter Bassinet himself, a healthy young man filled with a surprisingly sunny demeanor. (Or “thurprisingly thunny” as Bassinet would say, since he is saddled with a lisp that would make Mel Blanc proud.) Charles Lafond’s Bassinet is pleasantly game for the proceedings and amiably goes along with the Doctor’s lies so that he can interest him in a property he is trying to unload – a shuttered dress shop across town.
Yvonne soon becomes increasingly alarmed by what seems to be flagrant infidelity on her husband’s part and calls in the cavalry in the form of Molineaux’s dreaded mother-in-law, Madame Aigreville (played as part Dragon Lady, part Medusa and unequivocal Mother-in-Law from Hell by the scene stealing Payton St. James.)
Ah, but the convoluted misunderstandings that are the hallmark of Feydeau’s plays does not stop there. The French farceur once said, “Whenever two of my characters absolutely, positively under any circumstances shouldn’t meet, I put them in the same room together.”
Enter the hot-to-trot Suzanne Aubin whose attempted dalliance with the Doctor at the Moulin Rouge drove her to seek out satisfaction from him at his home. Played by Tanya Anderson, Suzanne is a creature of pure desire. Courting danger as well as the Doctor, she has brought along her husband Gustavo (a wonderful comedic turn by Luis Astudillo.) The fact that she might get caught at any moment amps up the excitement for her tenfold. Add the Doctor’s fey valet Etienne (a very funny Nicholas Thibeault) and Vanessa Blanchette’s cheeky maid Marie to the mix and you have the full roster of colorful characters – each with their own agendas, not-so-secret desires and all packing some really great one-liners courtesy of author Charles Morey.
Courtesy of costume designer Ron Cesario, each character is impeccably dressed in high period style. Decked out in wigs, broadly decorated hats, bustles and large swathes of skirts, the cast looks utterly divine.
Shea’s choice to perform the piece in the round certainly contributes to the increasingly madcap pace of the evening, propelled by perfectly timed entrances and exits. Set and lighting designer Max Ponticelli has done a lovely job of creating a functional, yet minimalistic set that does double duty as both Moulineaux’s home, and the second act’s mysterious dress shop.
While the first act is purely setup for the brilliant comedic payoff of the second, much credit goes to director (and lead actor) Ed Shea for the sheer believability – and humanity – of the comedic moments. It is the mental gymnastics required by the characters to avoid exposure and explain away physical evidence that is so delightful to watch. Oh, and the sexual innuendos – those naughty bits are always more than welcome to come along for the ride. Truly, there is not a joke or sight gag that they have missed. Shea and his cast of adventurous actors that have taken the art of French farce to new levels of hilarity. Catch this flawless comedy before it closes!